In Pieces – Chapter 24

That evening when Ashleigh arrived home, Matt was no where to be found. She figured he was probably out at some staff meeting, or at his parents house. She dismissed it, not really caring too much.

After giving Nick a call and letting him know that she’d arrived home safely, Ashleigh curled up in her bed and peered at her photo albums. This was something she’d always liked to do when she was feeling lonely. It had only been recently that she’d finally dug out the pictures of she and Joey back from 2001 and had them organized into their own book. Tired from her flight and emotionally draining weekend, it wasn’t long before she fell asleep.

A few hours later, when she woke up Matt was sitting beside her. “Good morning sleepyhead.” He said when she rolled over to face him.

“What time is it?” Ashleigh mumbled, not too delighted that she’d fallen asleep.

“Almost ten. How was your trip?” He asked.

Ashleigh bit her lip. Was she going to have to have this conversation with him tonight? No, she was too tired for that. She’d just have to lie to him. “It was good.” She replied. It wasn’t exactly a lie – her trip had gone well. Just not in the way Matt assumed.

He nodded, and inched himself closer to her. “I missed you this weekend.” He said softly, placing his hand on her thigh.

Ashleigh gave him an irritated look, which he didn’t notice. He missed her so much that he hadn’t bothered to call her while she was gone. When he started to softly kiss her, Ashleigh squeezed her eyes shut. She was going to have to do this today. She hadn’t given a second thought to Matt while she’d slept with Nick, and yet there was no way she was going to allow herself to do the opposite.

“I can’t do this.” Ashleigh said suddenly, hopping off the bed. She had a feeling this wasn’t going to go smoothly at all.

“What?” Matt asked her, confused. “Oh, are you too tired?” He asked innocently.

“No!” Ashleigh nearly shouted. The impending sense of doom was already starting to raise her temper, and nothing had even happened yet. “This!” She said, waving her hand around. “All of this. I can’t do it.”

Matt glared at her, not sure if he fully understood. “What do you mean, you can’t do it?” He said in a low voice.

“I can’t marry you.” She said quietly.

“You can’t marry me?” He nearly shouted, and Ashleigh winced. She hadn’t even begun half of it. Maybe she didn’t need to tell him about Nick. Maybe this was enough. “What the hell does that mean Ashleigh? You were the one that started this entire marriage idea!”

“I know.” She said, putting her hands over his face. Why did he insist on making this so difficult? Couldn’t he have just said “okay.” And be done with it? “I changed my mind.”

“You changed your mind?!” He said in disbelief. That wasn’t like Ashleigh at all, she was usually incredibly stubborn and set in her ways. “What the fuck happened when you were on vacation? What the hell has Joey been saying to you?”

Ashleigh rolled her eyes. Annoyed that he’d brought Joey up, especially when she’d been on his side for the first little while. “She hasn’t been saying anything! You think that I can’t make a decision on my own?” She spat.

“No Ashleigh, you can’t make a decision on your own.” Matt said angrily. “You’re always running to Joey for advice, making her live your life for you. It’s sick.”

Ashleigh was angry she wanted to scream. How dare he say those things to her? Especially when Joey hadn’t agreed with her at all lately. “Give me a break! Joey and I didn’t talk for two fucking weeks because she was so upset with me. That’s hardly getting her to live my life for me!”

Matt stood silently for a minute. She’d trapped him, he wasn’t able to counter what she’d said. What gave her the right to accuse him of never wanting to settle down, and then just throw it all away? “Ashleigh.” He pleaded, trying a different approach. “What’s wrong?” He said, approaching her and touching her gently.

His false sweetness made Ashleigh even more angry. He only ever acted this way unless he wanted something. “I just…don’t want it anymore.” She said quietly.

Matt wouldn’t accept that as a valid answer. Why should he? They’d been together for a long time, shared a house together and were in the midst of planning a wedding. “That’s not true. Tell me what’s going on.”

She sighed. She was going to have to tell him about Nick. At least Nick was safe in Florida, and wouldn’t have to worry about an angry ex-fiancée rampaging his house. “I…there’s someone else.”

Matt raised an eyebrow. When had Ashleigh had time to meet someone? She only ever went to work or went out with Joey. Occasionally she saw her old friends from University, but those get-togethers were so few and far between that Ashleigh would hardly have time to meet someone from there. “How?” He asked, annoyed.

Again, she sighed. Was he really going to make her tell him the whole story? The fact that she’d decided to be with another man wasn’t enough for him? “That concert that Joey and I went to a few weeks ago is where I met him.” It wasn’t a complete lie.

Matt rolled his eyes, not believing what he was hearing. “I hate to break it to you Ashleigh, but any guy you met at a Backstreet Boys concert is probably gay. In fact, a gay guy would probably fit in more with their crowd than a bunch of screaming girls would.” He smirked, knowing that comment would bother Ashleigh.

And bother her it did. “You’re just jealous.” She said angrily, pushing him off of her.

“Jealous of what?” He laughed. “You need to come out of this 1990’s teen pop world that you live in it’s-”

“Jealous that one of them stole your girlfriend.” Ashleigh cut him off, before he could continue to insult her.

Matt narrowed his eyes at her. “You aren’t dating a Backstreet Boy, Ashleigh. I know you may think you are. Is it a nice world you live in? You need to get out more.”

Ashleigh glared at him. She didn’t think she could take another minute of his condescending attitude. She picked up the photo album and threw it at him. “I’m not fucking crazy. I am, however, fucking Nick Carter.” She shouted, as she left the bedroom and made her way downstairs.

Matt flipped through the pictures quickly. Sure enough, there was Ashleigh who looked as though she was still in high school, hanging off of one of her idols that she loved so much. He tossed the pictures back onto the bed, and headed downstairs to confront his fiancée.

“How old are those pictures, Ash?” Matt challenged once he made it to the kitchen, where Ashleigh was sitting at the table. “You think he even remembers who you are?”

“He remembers.” Ashleigh said coldly. “I ran into him at the concert.” She said, getting up from her seat. Part of her was enjoying this, finally being able to stand up to him. “And let me tell you, he proved to me that he certainly is not gay.”

They were both silent for a minute, while Matt comprehended what Ashleigh was telling him. “You think a one night stand constitutes a relationship?” He said angrily, still refusing to believe what was happening. “All he did was use you to get off.”

His words struck a nerve with Ashleigh. That was exactly what Nick had done to her the first time that they were together. Now, things were different but it still bothered her that Matt had hit the nail right on the head with regards to what had happened between she and Nick before. “He’s not using me!” She shouted. “Unless letting me stay in his mansion in Florida is using me. Unless taking me out on his boat and making love to me out on the ocean is using me! Unless phoning me everyday and taking an interest in my life is using me!” She screamed, unable to contain her anger.

It seemed as though Matt wasn’t able to contain himself any longer either. He shoved Ashleigh out of the way and charged into the basement. Ashleigh looked at him in bewilderment, wondering what in the hell he was up to.

Minutes later, Matt emerged from the basement and continued right on back up to the bedroom. Curious, Ashleigh followed him and was shocked (and a little amused) at what she saw.

“What the hell are you doing?!” She shrieked.

“Since you’re sleeping with him, you really don’t need all this crap, now do you?” He sneered, taking a video cassette and smashing it underneath his feet.

All of Ashleigh’s Backstreet Boys memorabilia was spread out atop their bed. Ashleigh just watched in astonishment as he destroyed her things. He ripped pages out of books, tore posters in half, pulled tape out of her video cassettes. She didn’t know whether to scream, cry or laugh.

Feeling as though she had to get out of there, she grabbed her photo album off the bed before it was subject to destruction. Taking her cell phone and purse off the kitchen counter, she ran out to her car. As fast as she could, she drove away from her house and into the parking lot of a small church a few blocks away. Putting the car into park, she leaned her head against the steering wheel, and cried softly. She pulled out her cell phone and peeked at it. She didn’t know who to call, and she didn’t really know what she was upset about. She was happy, not having to be with Matt anymore, but upset that it had been such a big argument leading up to it. She was also upset that Matt was still back at her house, presumably destroying all her Backstreet Boys possessions.

She sighed and turned her car on again. Calling Nick wouldn’t be helpful at all, it would probably only worry him.

A few minutes later, Ashleigh was frantically ringing Joey’s doorbell. Eventually, her friend opened the door and Ashleigh collapsed into her arms, sobbing.

“Ash?” Joey asked, bringing her inside the house. “What’s wrong? Did something happen in Florida? I’ll kill Nick if he did something to you!” She said, sitting her down on the couch in her living room.

Ashleigh shook her head quickly. “No, Florida was great. I loved it.” She said, a slight smile creeping up on her face. “I broke up with Matt.” She said, starting to cry again.

“Oh, Ash.” Joey said, hugging her friend again. “I’m sorry. But it’s for the best, you know?”

Ashleigh nodded, wiping her eyes. “Yeah, I know. He went kind of crazy. He was wrecking all my Backstreet Boys stuff. He tore up my official book and broke my tapes.” She said with a little laugh.

“We can watch mine.” Joey offered, knowing that might help to cheer Ashleigh up. She’d always taken pride in her collection, even after she and Nick had split up.

“It’s not the same.” Ashleigh muttered. Strangely, she cared more about the fact that pieces of her childhood were being ripped to shreds, rather than ending her engagement.

Joey nodded knowingly. “I bet Nick can hook you up with some really cool stuff.”

Ashleigh laughed a little. She supposed Joey was right. Besides, she didn’t really need all that stuff anymore. “I guess.”

“Why don’t you give Nick a call? I’ll make some tea, and we can watch my old MTV tape.” Joey suggested.

Ashleigh nodded and as Joey stepped into the kitchen she dialed Nick’s number. It took a few rings before he answered, making Ashleigh feel a little guilty in the event that she had woken him up.

“Hello…” Nick answered.

“Hey.” Ashleigh said. “I just wanted to, um…let you know that I kind of broke up with Matt.”

“What?” Nick asked, waking up. “You broke up?” He repeated her, ecstatic. That was the final step in solidifying their relationship. “How’d it go?”

“Not so good.” Ashleigh admitted. “He freaked out and got really angry and broke a bunch of my stuff.” She said sadly.

“Where are you?” Nick asked, dismissing the fact that Ashleigh’s things had been ruined. He’d buy her new things if she needed them. All he wanted to know was that she was safe.

“I’m a Joey’s. I think I’ll stay here tonight.” She said.

“Do you want me to come up there?” He asked, worried about what might happen when she finally had to go home.

“No.” Ashleigh said, smiling a little. She’d definitely made the right choice. “I can’t ask you to fly all the way up here on a whim.”

“It’s not like I have anything else to do.” Nick reasoned. “I want to be there for you. I’ll help you get that guy out of your house.”

“Well, I would kind of like to see you.” Ashleigh admitted.

“I’ll buy a plane ticket and be there as soon as I can.” He said, feeling a little better. He didn’t know why he hadn’t gone back with her in the first place.

Ashleigh smiled. “Thanks, Nick.”

They talked for a few more minutes until Joey re-entered the room. Ashleigh quickly said her goodbyes to Nick, not wanting to annoy her best friend.

“So, I take it things went well with Nick?” Joey asked, handing Ashleigh a mug.

Ashleigh nodded, taking a sip. “Really well. I had so much fun. Florida is awesome, Joe.”

Joey laughed, happy to see that things had worked out for Ashleigh and Nick. She definitely deserved it after all she’d gone through.

After telling Joey all the juicy details about what had gone down in Florida, the two girls settled on the couch watching Joey’s tape from 1998. As they laughed at all the old interviews, Ashleigh couldn’t help but feel more hopeful about the future and things to come.

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